Despite the hype that too often accompanies the praise, fiber is a very healthy addition to a good diet. Fiber is important for the health of the digestive system and for lowering cholesterol. It’s no miracle cure, but a substantial amount of insoluble fiber does help move material through the colon faster. It has a cleansing effect on the digestive system.
Foods containing fiber often are good sources of other essential nutrients. Depending on how they’re prepared, these foods can also be low in trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain, high-fiber foods, beans and legumes are good sources of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.
By improving the solidity and bulk of solid waste it also helps to keep those who are aging more regular, less constipated. The result, supported by many studies, is (among other benefits) a reduction in the odds of colon cancer.
Soluble fiber is found in citrus fruit like oranges and lemons, apples, beans, oats and barley grain. Among its other virtues, studies strongly suggest that some soluble fibers (beta glucan) can help reduce cholesterol. But there’s another kind called, not surprisingly, insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber, so-called because it doesn’t dissolve readily in water, can be found in nuts, wheat bran, whole grains and many vegetables.
But, as with every other aspect of diet, it’s best to have everything in the proper proportion. What is that, in the case of fiber? The recommended consumption for the average adult over 50 years of age is 21g for women and 30g for men. For those under 50 the amounts are 25g for women, 38g for men.
Of course, that’s only an average (for men about 170lbs, women around 120lbs). You’ll want to consult tables to find out the needed amounts for your weight. There are those rare individuals who are sensitive to certain foods and they will need to seek out sources of fiber that suit their particular circumstances.
But, as a rough starting point, there are several common foods that will be right for most.
A cup of raisin bran cereal has 7g of fiber, and is usually manufactured with helpful vitamins as well. A cup of oatmeal is a good source, even though it only contains 4g. A half-cup of cooked black beans contains about 7.5g. A half-cup of tomato paste has nearly 6g, while a half-cup of cooked Lima beans has nearly 7g.
Bran muffins have been touted as a good source of fiber, and that’s true, they are. But many also are high in fat and sugar, so exercise moderation and seek out a low-fat type. A couple dozen peanuts can also be a good source of fiber, but here again they are high in fat. Control the urge to get large amounts of fiber from them. You don’t want to pile on the calories when getting needed nutrients.
Many fruits are a good source of fiber, including raspberries (1/2 cup contains 5.5g), blackberries (1/2 cup has 3.8g) and apples (3.3g per apple). Even pumpkin is a good source (3.5g in 1/2 cup), but this too can be a source high in fat and sugar, if it’s in the form of pumpkin pie.
A slice of bread has 2g, so the average sandwich will supply 4g. But be sure to get whole grain bread, not the ultra-processed white.
Put both soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet and be good to yourself.